For a team that lost 100 games in 2013, winning in any way would be ideal. But for the Miami Marlins who are confident in the team they put on the field every day, winning within the division has to become a characteristic, not a luxury.
The Marlins just finished a road trip during which they went 2-4 and opposed the National League East's New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. While the Mets are in rebuilding mode, much like the Marlins, the Braves aren't. The Nationals are going to be competitive, and for the time being, so are the Philadelphia Phillies.
Regardless of the leads they have or the solid pitching performance they get, the Marlins haven't played the Atlanta Braves well in recent years. The Braves, much like the Marlins, have a roster full of young, talented, and emerging players with a lot of potential. But the discipline and maturity of the Atlanta youth is what gives the Braves an edge over the Marlins.
Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton are two of baseball's best athletes. But so are Alex Wood and Freddie Freeman.
Since the season is so young, it is unfair to evaluate success, or the lack of it, based on one series. The Phillies, who were supposed to be older and accepting of a subpar year, swept the Marlins and did it convincingly. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who may not be the same players they were two or three years ago, did what veterans do, and thrived against the Marlins' young pitching staff.
Miami in this young season has already seen the Washington Nationals twice, and only won one of the six ballgames, being swept in D.C. and losing two of three at Marlins Park. Bryce Harper struggled early, and the Marlins seemingly have Steven Strasburg's number. But that isn't enough.
While Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have all contributed offensively, the leadership and veteran presence internally has helped the team. After losing eight a row, the 2013 Marlins may have lost four or five more. At some point, though, division play has to become a priority.
Miami opened the season against the Rockies and Padres, and while it is necessary to win games against teams that may not be as consistent or have as much talent, there has to come a point, a turning point perhaps, where the Marlins acknowledge their lack of success in the division and determine how to win games.
The Marlins weren't picked to finish atop the National League East. But if the changes made were the right changes, and roster moves were the correct ones, Miami should see wins facing teams that many believe are significantly better than them. And that starts within the division.